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- Best Overall: Napa Valley Wine Academy
- Best Variety of Courses: Wine School of Philadelphia International
- Best International: Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
- Best for U.S. Wine: Cornell University Online
- Best for Industry Professionals: International Wine Center
- Best Free: University of Adelaide
- Best Licensed Provider: International Sommelier Guild
Sommeliers know wine. While many wine lovers may think that they’re a wine expert, attending a wine tasting does not a sommelier make. There’s a vast array of studies for sommelier certification: learning wine regions and the varietals they produce, viticulture, enology, food pairings, and taste.
While you always have the option of reading books about wine or taking a course that allows self-paced study, an online class may provide the structure, ease, and motivation needed to receive a sommelier accreditation.
The work is extensive, but the rewards of being a certified sommelier are worth it for those who commit to pursuing the title. There are dozens of wine schools to choose from, both online and in-person, so we narrowed them down by selecting the best online sommelier classes.
Best Overall: Napa Valley Wine Academy
Why We Chose It: Napa Valley Wine Academy ranks as best overall because it is approved by the internationally known Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). The courses are designed to educate industry professionals and wine enthusiasts.
Wide variety of certification courses
Recommended readings designed by wine experts
Courses available for specific wine regions
Hands-on workshops such as the WSET Level 3 Harvest Boot Camp can’t be attended virtually
Based in Napa Valley, California, Napa Valley Wine Academy is an approved program provider of the internationally recognized Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). It offers courses for people with varying levels of wine expertise, from everyday enthusiasts to wine industry professionals. For this reason, it is an ideal choice for anyone looking to become a sommelier.
The online courses range from Wine 101 Foundation for an introduction to the world of wine as well as advanced sommelier certifications. Students have the option for regional wine certifications in Argentina, Oregon, Italy, and more. As an added feature, students can schedule coaching sessions with a mentor.
Costs vary by course. For example, Wine 101 Foundation is $125, and the Business of Wine is $499.
Best Variety of Courses: Wine School of Philadelphia International
Why We Chose It: The sheer volume of offerings at the Wine School of Philadelphia International—everything from sparkling wines, food pairings, natural wine, spirits, and even a course on how to drink for a living—make it our pick for the best variety of courses.
Something for every level of interest
Courses are geared toward the entire wine trade
Ability to earn a sommelier certification up to the master level
You’re invited to open and enjoy a bottle of wine during online classes
Working at your own pace may not be ideal for every learner
The Wine School of Philadelphia International provides courses for every level of interest, whether you want to take a one-hour class or are pursuing a full sommelier certification.
A sommelier pin is given to students who earn two core certifications—the Foundation and the Intermediate certifications—which is called the Core Wine Program. Students have the ability to earn a certification from advanced sommelier up to master-level sommelier online. For this, students need to pass both Level 2 and Level 3 exams. Students can take courses individually, while the Core Program provides both programs in one semester, saving money on tuition costs.
As the online courses are part of the National Wine School’s professional certification programming, students can earn a nationally recognized sommelier certification, fully online, and at a discounted rate compared to in-person training.
The price of each course varies: Level One is $149, while Luxury Wines of Greece is just $11.99, for instance.
Best International: Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Why We Chose It: With more than 900 approved course providers in 70 countries, students can take courses in 15 languages through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
Flexibility to learn online
Comprehensive course load
Globally recognized WSET qualifications
Online students wishing to qualify at level 3 and above need to attend an in-person tasting workshop
As the largest global provider of wine, spirits, and sake qualification, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust offers four progressive levels of study for both wine enthusiasts and industry professionals. The WSET qualifications are internationally recognized in the wine and spirit industry.
WSET works with more than 900 teaching and exam centers to provide education throughout the world in person and online. Although there are classroom learning options, there is an abundance of online options as well.
The comprehensive course load covers wines, spirits, and sake. Demo classes allow students to sample a course before joining. Upon completion of each level, students receive a WSET certificate and lapel pin. Prices are not listed.
Best for U.S. Wine: Cornell University Online
Why We Chose It: The certificate program focuses on the four major wine-producing regions in the United States.
A focused education on U.S. wine regions
At-home wine tasting experience
No International wine certification
Guided by renowned wine expert Cheryl Stanley, Cornell University’s online wine program centers around wines made in California, Washington, Oregon, and New York.
Learning wine tasting and evaluation techniques, students learn to identify the distinct aromas and flavors of wine. Courses then move on to discovering the regions and their unique features, flavor profiles, and production factors. Instruction also covers how to interpret wine labels, select the best wines from a region, and pair food with wine.
The education ends with a virtual wine tasting, during which students can taste and compare their perceptions. Contact the school for pricing information.
Best for Industry Professionals: International Wine Center
Why We Chose It: The International Wine Center has a long history as a wine and spirits school and is dedicated to professional studies.
Level 1 is optional
17 graduates are now Masters of Wine
Thousands of students educated since 1982
Level 4 courses are only available in person
With more than 35 years as a wine and spirits school, International Wine School is one of the most established and recognized educational centers in the U.S.
Courses can be taken at its New York facility or online from anywhere. Course levels include WSET Levels 1 through 4. Level 1 is optional if the student already feels comfortable around wine.
Level 1 consists of a six-module program for four weeks that comprise 1.3 hours of online activities and textbook study per week. Level 2 also has six modules covered over a five-week period, with six hours of online activities and textbook study per week. Level 3 is a nine-week program and recommends 10 hours of online activity and textbook study per week. WSET Level 4 Courses in Wines consist of six units and are taken in person.
All of the online courses offer the opportunity to access all content including discussions, instructor chats, and feedback as often as needed each week. Level 1 is $239; Level 2 is $607; and Level 3 is $1,159. Level 4 courses are priced individually and collectively cost several thousand dollars.
Best Free: University of Adelaide
Why We Chose It: The option for students to try the wine course at no cost makes it our pick for the best free option.
Consistently ranked among the top 1% of universities
Free course auditing option
Limited options for wine courses
Although the University of Adelaide only offers one free wine course—World of Wine: From Grape to Glass—we deemed it worth inclusion because anyone can try it regardless of budget.
Students learn principles and practices, and it’s appropriate for wine novices as well as industry professionals. Students learn to determine flavor profiles, appearance, and aroma. The course serves as a nice introduction to the world of wine.
A certification to show you completed the course is available for $199.
Best Licensed Provider: International Sommelier Guild
Why We Chose It: The combination of qualified professors, interesting curriculum, and the International Sommelier Guild’s licensed status leads us to choose it for best licensed provider.
Both live and online courses
Comprehensive course options
A step-by-step program to certification
Opportunity to go as far as desired
Tuition costs are higher than other courses mentioned here
At the International Sommelier Guild (ISG), students have the option of live or online courses. Their comprehensive education includes courses on full enology, wine business, nutrition, and more.
The courses are delivered in a step-by-step format. The first step garners an Intermediate Wine Certificate (IWC); the second step is an Advanced Wine Certificate (AWC); the third step is a Sommelier Diploma Program (SDP); the fourth step is ISGM Master Wine Business, Sommelier, Nutrition, Oenology (ISGM WSNO); and the fifth step is ISGM Master Wine Business, Sommelier, Nutrition, Oenology (ISGM WSNO Degree).
The multistep programs allow students the opportunity to progress as far as they desire. Prices range from $500 for the Intermediate Wine Certificate course up to $16,000 for an online degree that requires more than 1,800 hours of learning.
Most of the schools listed here offer certification for each level accomplished, making it easy to progress in steps until the desired level of wine education is achieved. The variety of course offerings at the Wine School of Philadelphia International, however, makes it a top choice for someone wanting to try different wine courses.
While there weren’t many negative aspects of the courses mentioned, one possible downside of all online sommelier courses is the lack of in-person training. The ability to study independently is required in order to stay on track and accomplish goals to achieve sommelier certification. Many of the courses do host virtual wine tastings, which provide a more interactive experience.
Online sommelier classes are designed to allow wine enthusiasts and those new to wine to learn the nuances of the beverage. For industry professionals, online sommelier classes provide an opportunity for someone working in the world of wine to learn about all aspects of the industry while earning certification to advance their career.
As there are no federal requirements for certifying sommeliers, qualifications are determined by an employer; however, there are state-authorized accreditations for state-approved trade schools.
Absolutely. Most of the recommended courses offer a choice between a certified or noncertified course.
How We Chose the Best Online Sommelier Classes
We took into consideration wine schools recommended by SOMM, an independent wine education review body, and looked at wine schools that offered a variety of courses and options for online study and certification. We chose The Napa Valley Wine Academy as best overall, for example, because it offers something for every level of wine drinker and is internationally recognized.